From October 27th to 29th this year in the halls and corridors of the Westin St. Francis Hotel the air will have a decidedly Samsungy feel, as the company's first Developer Conference unfurls across the Galaxy. Or at least San Francisco. It's a great idea. Ish.
Google, of course, has a developers conference of its own—Google I/O. Apple, famously, has its own developers conference, WWDC, that is one of the few marquee events that Apple engages in...having pulled out of many other industry affairs. Given that the company makes so much cash from farming smartphones and tablets, which basically feed on apps, this is a great idea. It also explains why Apple often uses the event to launch devices, and we can imagine that Samsung will pull off the same sort of stunt (with a smartwatch, perhaps).
But will the Samsung event achieve the same sort of value among its developers as Google's and Apple's does? Let's use Samsung's own promotional text to illustrate the "yes" and "no" of this question:
One of the great things about getting a huge group of developers together with the executives and experts who put together the devices they program is that a lot of information sharing happens. When you add in discussions with developers who've made a success of developing for Samsung devices, the mix gets even better.
What's on the cards at the Samsung event is a lot of Samsung technical folk revealing best practice for writing apps for their devices, and great examples from developers who've squeezed great performance from the devices and perhaps successfully monetized them. Considering this is Samsung we're talking about here, a firm that makes everything from washing machines to smart TVs, the conference may also be an opportunity for Samsung's "industry leaders" to get developers enthused about writing code for devices other than phones and tablets.
Equally important is that the same "industry leaders" will get perhaps their first exposure to Samsung's developer community en masse. Pet peeves will probably be aired, important questions asked and praise given. The hope is that information going this way will lead to better Samsung devices in the future.
This definitely works for Apple, and indeed much of the more interesting news that comes out of WWDC isn't from its splashy headline-grabbing keynote speeches (where industry figures definitely inspire the crowd) but out of the developer sessions and meetings through the week.
It goes without saying, though of course Samsung had to, that collaboration and communication among fellow developers is a great thing. Samsung's got its own particular flavor of Android and its own tools. And while you can of course develop your own tricks for working with both Google's and Samsung's idiosyncrasies, it's often better to chat about these things with people exposed to the same problems. Their solutions may be better than yours.
Furthermore, putting a lot of developers in one place could create a sense of camaraderie, healthy competition and perhaps even prompt some teams to form new collaborations or even businesses. Heaven help us if this may not actually improve the quality of some of the million or so apps on the Google Play store.
Some of Samsung's systems are designed to work exclusively with one another, such as its Galaxy phones and its smart TV-sporting televisions. Learning in detail about Samsung's tools for coding on platforms such as these may result in better apps for the consumer, and it may also give developers a glimpse into Samsung's future plans for device integration. Similarly for dedicated Samsung hardware like the S Pen, learning from Samsung's own teams about the ins and outs of the systems has to be a positive thing.
Samsung, of course, doesn't sell consumers its smartphones and tablets with unadorned Android installed on them, and instead layers the phones beneath its own interpretation of Google's operating system and loads them up with dedicated Samsung apps that only work with Samsung hardware, utilizing Samsung-only APIs. You know that fragmentation issue that keeps being thrown around about Android? Yup, the Samsung developer event may actually be at risk of exacerbating it. Imagine if Microsoft called a conference for folks to only write websites that worked with the non-standard systems embedded in Internet Explorer...the web as a whole would suffer.
Samsung already wields a disproportionate sway over the Android world, and the conference could be considered a way of increasing this influence. That's not necessarily in the best interests of the Android dev community as a whole, nor the consumers who are ultimately its customers. It's no coincidence that Google has recently begun to sell a "pure" Google Edition of Samsung's flagship Galaxy S4 phone...something that developers attending Samsung's event may want to remember.
[Image: Flickr user Samsung USA]